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Inside the Games

An immeasureable challenge is met with success

The announcement to reintroduce the Olympic Games into the sports calendar was given a warm welcome by the entire Greek nation, although the decision could not have been taken in more dire circumstances for that country, weakened by 50 years of internal conflict.

The economic infrastructure was in such disrepair that the then President initially refused the International Olympic Committee's offer of participation.

Fortunately, for Greece, participation was assured by George Averoff, a Greek citizen from Alexandria who made an offer of 1 million drachma to the government.

After the go-ahead, given by King George I, restoration work on the site of the Pantheon Stadium soon began. A marvelous white marble structure was built which could entertain and hold up to 60,000 spectators, although the running track left a lot to be desired.

On the 6th April 1896, a Greek national holiday, the King - in admiral's uniform - walked through the stadium's Arc de Triomphe to be greeted by 60,000 privileged and enthusiastic spectators. The first staging of the Games of the modern era was about to begin.

Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.